Malaria, a parasitic disease, is caused by the bites of mosquitoes in the tropical region. As per the World Health Organization reports, around 0.45 million people have died in 2016 because of it and researchers are still trying to come up with early detection methods.
At present, the disease can be detected by examining the blood sample of the infected, however, this method fails to address the problems of the people who are living in the remote areas with inadequate medical facilities.
Keeping that in mind, researchers at the University of Southern California have come up with a cost-effective method to detect Malaria in the infected patients. By using their blood sample, a magnet, and a laser pointer, researchers have been able to make a portable device that can provide early detection of the disease.
The detection requires no lab tests to be performed on the blood samples and thus, helps to produce early results in comparison to the existing method.
Malaria Detection Tool with Signal response data
A healthy human blood sample doesn't have any magnetic properties. When the malaria parasite enters our bloodstream, it starts feeding on the Haemoglobin present inside the red blood cells. This produces Heme which is harmful to both the parasite and the cells and thus, the parasite converts it into Hemozoin.
Once all the Haemoglobin is consumed, the red blood cells bursts, releasing the Hemozoin in the bloodstream. Hemozoin has magnetic properties which allow the infected blood sample to respond to magnetic behavior. By transmitting light through the infected sample, one can detect the change in intensity of transmitted light as the Hemozoin shifts towards magnet allowing more light to transmit.
Shining a laser pointer through a healthy blood sample in the presence and absence of magnetic field will show same results. However, different results will be produced in case of an infected sample.
More details about the device can be found at the ACS Sensors site where their research has been published with the title ' Rapid Diagnostic for point-of-care Malaria Screening'.
Samantha E. McBirney, Dongyu Chen, Hossein Ameri and Andrea M. Armani of the University of Southern California and Alexis Scholtz of the Johns Hopkins University are the principal researchers who are working behind this idea.
They have made a portable device which works on the above detection principle. The device has a dimension similar to that of a toaster and contains a laser pointer, a magnet, and a detector.
By collecting blood samples in a clear tube and placing it inside the device, one can detect whether the sample has malaria parasites or not. The device has been made simple enough to be used by everyone and is also compact and rugged so that it can be shipped worldwide.
Currently, the researchers are looking for commercial partners to make this device accessible to people. Given that, the device offers a cheaper and cost-effective alternative, investors are hesitating to back up the project as the device lacks the potential of making a big revenue.
However, Andrea M. Armani, one of the principal researchers is trying hard to make this device commercially available. Her team is all buckled up and they are testing more and more samples to certify the importance of their research.
Source - ACS Sensors